With the holiday season quickly approaching we’re bringing out some of our essential spices that we use throughout the holidays. The simple act of baking with these spices helps fill our homes with the aroma of the holidays and helps get us into a festive mood. There’s nothing like whipping up a simple spice cake or an aromatic pumpkin pie to make it feel like fall is here.
Most of us are familiar with spices like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg but cardamom and star anise are great additions to any holiday recipe and have a rich history. We decided to do a quick and dirty breakdown of the various spices we will be using throughout the rest of the year.
Cloves – This seasoning tends to collect dust throughout most the year, but come fall it turns into one of our most used holiday baking spices. Nothing makes a pumpkin pie or gingerbread taste quite as good as cloves do. This spice comes from the Myrtaceae family and is a flowering bud native to Indonesia. They have a sweet and aromatic taste to them that helps add a dose of warmth to any baked good. You can use either whole cloves or ground cloves when cooking, but ground tends to work best for baking.
Star Anise – This is easily one of the most beautiful spices and forms in a natural star shape from the Illicium verum family of evergreen trees. This spice hails from China and Vietnam and has a deep licorice flavor to it. They go great added to holiday treats like snickerdoodles or added to mulled wine. It’s best to buy Star Anise whole and one or two stars are typically all you will need for a dish.
Nutmeg – One of the most popular spices every holiday season is nutmeg. This spice comes from the seed of the Myristica tree and has a sweet nutty taste. This is one of our go-to spices here and is a great addition to many traditional holiday desserts. And we couldn’t imagine having eggnog without this holiday classic. If possible, use a whole nutmeg seed instead of pre-ground; you can use a zester or a nutmeg grinder to grind your own.
Cinnamon – This spice is one of the most used in every baker’s arsenal and there’s good reason for it. Cinnamon has been around for thousands of years and has always been a highly sought after commodity. This spice comes from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree found in various countries but is mainly produced in Sri Lanka. Now cinnamon is used in all sorts of different sweet and savory dishes and provides some great nutritional benefits. If possible, use cinnamon sticks instead of ground as it provides a sweeter flavor and stays fresh longer. We’re sure this great spice can enhance most any recipe you use this holiday season.
Cardamom – This spice comes in tiny green or black seed pods and has a strong spicy and citrus flavor to it. Cardamom is a part of the Zingiberaceae family and is grown mostly in Guatemala and India, where it originates. Try adding a little bit to different pies or cakes this season. We recommend using green pods instead of the black pods or pre-ground cardamom because they have a more balanced flavor.
Sometimes it’s fun to try out different takes on these classic spices and many spice stores have their own twists to these baking essentials. You can check out places like Savory Spice Shop and try out their own unique twists on these spices. Spices like Saigon Cassia Cinnamon and Black or Green Cardamom pods can add their own flavor to a dish.